Sometime between 1780 and 1782, the Italian artist Clemente Susini created the first Anatomical Venus: A life-sized, nude, wax woman, with human hair brushed down over her shoulders, a pearl necklace clasped around her neck, and her lips permanently parted. Students of anatomy could unhook the hinge along her torso and swing the skin-colored door out to reveal seven articulated layers of plasticine organs. Here was an alternative to dissecting corpses. Instead of decaying flesh, a beautiful facsimile of a woman with pieces you could remove, threaded muscle around bone, and a stone-sized fetus tucked into the bottom layer.
So it’s finally here! The season of Halloween is upon us! This is hands down the best time of year and if you don’t agree well, you are more than welcome to suck me.
I mean that in the most loving and gentle way possible because WE STAN HALLOWEEN IN THIS HOUSE. I wanted to write up a few movies that I will be watching/re-watching this month and share them with you.
The Witch (2015) – directed by Robert Eggers
When talking about horror movie fans typically people split into two camps; one is the gore hound, that person that just wants the nastiest, most offensive, terrifying piece of media regardless of quality and the other is the horror snob, that person that seeks high art with their horror, unable to enjoy a piece of media unless it measures up to their high standards. I am the later. I know myself. When The Witch (also called The VVitch for the way it was spelled on the poster) was released, it set off a feud between the two groups. One saying that the movie was hard to understand and barely passable as a horror movie, the other group saying that it was one of the best horror movies in years. For me the controversy was an important piece of the art, the movie itself was provocative in a way that few other horror films are, it started conversation about what constitutes a “good” movie over a “bad” one and that made it a film that will be part of the history of great horror for years to come. Besides that, the movie is a visual masterpiece taking inspiration from Goya’s post war nightmares to Wyeth’s desolate American landscape. It encapsulates the fear and terror that white settler’s felt not only from the strange foreign land of the Americas but also the fear and paranoia that religion stokes inside of each of them.
The Innocents (1961) -directed by by Jack Clayton
This film version of Henry James’ 1898 novel The Turn of the Screw is a classic in gothic horror revivalism. During the 1960’s a reemergence happened to ignite people’s interest in all things haunted house, ghostly, cursed manors, and tormented ingenues. During the 1960’s you saw the emergence of Hammer Horror, Dracula, and those gothic novels with white women running away from houses. This film deals with a governess who starts working at a manor in the English countryside where she has to take care of two young children. In the manor she beleives to start seeing the presence of the long dead caretaker and the previous governess. This movie is an example of what horror can do when you don’t actually see anything. The audience experiences everything through the lens of the main character who is unreliable and goes between moments of great paranoia to stress. The story is tragic but also mysterious as we the audience never really know what is going on. Is the house haunted? Or is she?
Cronos (1993) – directed by Guillermo del Toro
This was Guillermo del Toro’s big break out into the mainstream as not just a creature creator but as a master storyteller. I watched this movie years ago, probably around the time it came to VHS and had no idea what I was watching. I thought it was a children’s movie but boy was I wrong. Del Toro has a real skill with his ability to craft pieces that feel like story tales. I want to revisit this movie and see where this places in the career path of del Toro and his evolutionary art style.
The Bride – (1985) – directed by Franc Roddam
This movie deserves more respect! I am such a huge fan of almost any Frankenstein movie out there. I love The Monster, especially when he is painted a little closer to his literary progenitor. This movie is what I would imagine Mary Shelley had in mind when she wrote the first science fiction book ever made. The film is moody, with a feminist touch to it, the movie feels almost ahead of its time. The Bride, played by Jennifer Beale isn’t a silent companion built by men to fullfill their desires, she is thinking creature who wants to make her own life. Following in the path of rock stars being in costumed epics, Sting stars in this movie as Victor Frankenstein. If you like The Labrynth or Gothic or Interview with a Vampire, I would definitely recommend this movie.
The Orphanage (2007) – directed by J. A. Bayona
When I saw this movie years ago, I was not yet into horror as an art form. It wasn’t something that I ever could have imagined that I would one day be making. The film was really horrifying for me and I’m not sure exactly why. Some films really stick in your mind and the residue can carry over in ways you really don’t understand until you pass by them again.
Trick r Treat (2007) – directed by Michael Dougherty
The horror anthology is a staple of the genre, with many films being part of some of the greatest additions to horror movies as a whole. Creepshow. Tales from the Cript. Tales from the Hood. Kwaidan. Tales of Terror. But one of the most popular movies to come out in recent years is Trick r Treat. You’ve probably seen the swollen head of the main character from the movie, munching on candy, with it’s dead, lifeless stare. Well for one reason or another I’ve actually never seen this movie, despite the fact that I’ve been told it’s a classic. I really want to put this on, on Halloween night and hope that no lollipop carrying kids come to my door.
Eyes Without a Face (1960) – directed by Georges Franju
I’m currently teaching myself French and part of that is watching French movies and TV and trying to not rely on subtitles. The French have a terrifying sense of darkness and horror, the most noticable being the New French Extremity genre that kicked up in the early 2000’s, these movies aren’t really my cup of tea but “Yeux Sans Visage” is a classic that deserves more attention.
Black Sunday (1960) – directed by Mario Bava
Barbara Steele is a horror icon that deserves more love and respect and I would let her exact her revenge on me in an old deserted castle any day.
Onibaba (1964) – directed by Kaneto Shindo
After long conversations telling people about the movie Kwaidan and how much of an amazing piece of influential cinema it is and then having people talk to me about Onibaba and how amazing and influential that is and having to pretend like I’ve seen it, I’m just going to watch the damn movie because I’m so afraid of being exposed I’m just going to expose myself.
REC (2007) directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza
I have seen snippets of this movie here and there and had many conversations with people who recommended this movie as a peak example of good found footage horror. In the early 2000’s there was a saturation of found footage horrror movies and they became so hokey that they weren’t even scary, it became a cheap gimmick that exhausted audiences. This film seems to stand above the rest as a good example of what that sub-genre can do.
American Mary (2012) directed by The Soska Sisters
Directed by The Soska Sisters, this is a movie that you hear about in literally every conversation about feminism in film specifically feminism in horror movies. It’s a film that I have actually watched. I’m not sure why, perhaps the movie didn’t look like my type or maybe it was because I wasn’t into the hype that the Soska sisters had around them. Whatever the case, I need to watch it or else I won’t be allowed on any more feminist horror movie panels.
Eve’s Bayou (1997) directed by Kasi Lemmons
There is a subset of horror that is really underdeveloped and underrepreseted and that is the genre of Southern Gothic. When we think of Gothic, in regards to horror, we think of England, maybe Ireland or probably Transylvania but in the states we have our own unique American brand of horror and that is the Southern Gothic. This film really deserves more credit and attention for how unique it is as a film and as an entry into the genre. I watched this movie when I was a bit too young to understand its context, and historical placement, I remember thinking that it was a TV show. This film reminds me of my family, my history, and the ghosts that being black can bring.
The Witches (1990) directed by Nicolas Roeg
Angela Basset as a child eating witch. Done.